The View From the Back Of the Room

A world-famous scientist was being driven to a university where he was scheduled to give a lecture. During the drive he confided to his chauffeur: “I’m not sure how interesting I can make this talk. I’m getting a little bored with giving the same lecture at every campus we visit.”

“I have an idea,” said the driver. “I’ve been listening from the back of the room each time you’ve given this lecture and I know the material pretty well by now. Why don’t we trade places? I’ll take your notes and give your speech, and you can sit in the back of the room and relax— besides, it might be fun for you to watch everyone.”

“I’ll take you up on that offer,” replied the scientist. Before they arrived at their destination, the pair stopped at a coffee shop and traded clothes. The scientist then drove while the chauffeur reviewed the lecture notes from the backseat.

The driver was able to pull off the lecture with no problem, but several minutes into the Q&A portion of the presentation, a student asked a rather complicated question.

The driver, standing confidently at the podium, maintained his composure as he said, “The answer to that question is so simple that I’m going to let my driver, seated in the back of the room, answer that for you.”

Upon having the students all turn to him for the correct answer, the scientist realized how grateful he was for his position. Sometimes a change of perspective is all we need to see our life through others’ eyes.

How to Protect Your Home from Water Damage

Water damage is one of the most common and costly challenges facing BC homeowners. The frequency and severity of water damage claims continue to grow due to extreme weather, more complex appliances and the growing popularity of condensed multi-unit living.

Most insurance policies do not cover water damage caused by continuous or repeated seepage, rising ground waters or surface waters – but sudden, while accidental, escape of water from a watermain, plumbing, heating system or internal drain are usually covered. Water damage resulting from a private external drain or entry of water through an opening in your roof are usually not covered and depend on your policy; additional coverage can be purchased for either event to provide you with protection needed.

A few simple precautions can help to safeguard your home and possessions from water damage:

  • Install water alarms. They work like smoke detectors but warn of leaks from toilets, water heaters, overflowing baths and sinks. Simply place near any water source and a high-pitched alarm alerts you to water leaks. Water alarms start from as little as $15 a unit.
  • Install stainless steel-braided hoses where possible. These hoses cost around $20 and are less likely to deteriorate than plastic hoses. Dishwasher and washing machine hoses should be inspected and replaced every three to five years.
  • Use a rain barrel. Rain barrels keep rainwater out of overloaded storm sewer infrastructures and provide you with water for your garden. Check if your municipality has a program that offers subsidies for a rain barrel purchase.
  • Connect an eavestrough downspout extension. Extend the eavestrough at least six feet from foundation walls to prevent water from draining into your basement, and direct it towards the street. Downspout extensions cost around $15.
  • Check the foundation. As ice melts or after heavy rain, clear any pooling water away from the home.
  • Inspect the roof. Get the roof inspected every few years to check the condition of the shingles and replace when necessary in order to prevent leaks.
  • Test the sump pump. If the basement has one, examine it and conduct a test run especially if it doesn’t get used frequently.
  • Protect your valuables. Consider moving valuables away from high-risk areas, such as the basement, or place items on high shelves or risers, especially in homes prone to water damage.

Only an Empty Cup Can Be Filled

A young lady, who was finishing up her master’s degree in philosophy, traveled to Indonesia for a semester abroad. The trip included personalized teaching from a local sage. Eager to begin, the student walked into the meeting hall and immediately began to tell her new teacher all that she had learned over the past two years, and how excited she was to put it all to use.

The sage listened. When the student paused for breath, the elderly man offered her a cup of tea.

“Yes, thank you,” said the young lady. “And so then I spent a semester focusing on…”

The master brought in a second pot of tea while the young lady kept on talking. Suddenly, the student realized that her cup was overflowing and the tea had spilled onto the floor. Still, the master kept pouring. “Sir, please stop!” cried the student. “My cup is already full—it can’t possibly hold another drop!”

“Ah,” said the master. “So we cannot add something to a container that is already full?’ ‘Perhaps first we must empty the cup.”

Suddenly, the young lady understood. Before she could learn anything new from this teacher, she had to create space for learning. Only an empty cup can be filled and only an open mind has room for new lessons.

B-20 Stress Test Needs Revision to Improve Housing Affordability

Vancouver, BC – March, 2019. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) is calling on the federal government to revisit the B-20 stress test so that more BC families can achieve their dream of homeownership. Mortgage lending rules, known as the B-20 stress test, have eroded housing affordability by reducing the purchasing power of families by as much as 20 per cent. Introduced last year, the stress test forces even the most credit-worthy borrowers with large down payments to qualify at an interest rate that is two percentage points above the rate they negotiate with their bank.

“We would like to see a review and reconsideration of the current mortgage underwriting ‘stress test,’ as well as a return to 30-year amortizations for federally insured mortgages,” says BCREA chief executive officer Darlene Hyde. “These rules must be changed now before BC families are left further behind.”

The stress test has caused a sharp decline in the attainability of homeownership in Canada. Since its implementation, home sales have declined 18 per cent across the country. Canada’s largest urban centres, where lack of affordability was especially acute before the new rules came into effect, have been hardest hit.

Home sales have declined nearly 25 per cent in Toronto and more than 45 per cent in Vancouver over the same period.

“The B-20 stress test is also having a negative impact on homeowner equity, family spending and the housing stock itself,” adds Hyde. “There’s a knock-on effect to the overall economy as families who are worried about declining home equity cut back on retail spending, home renovations and other products and services.”

A sharp decline in housing demand also causes home builders to pull back on production, arguably when it’s needed most, leading to slower growth of the housing stock and yet another supply crunch coupled with upward pressure on home prices down the road. Accordingly, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association has expressed similar concerns regarding the B-20 stress test, and the Canadian Real Estate Association and Toronto Real Estate Board have recently made similar appeals.

When families are locked out of the housing market by the strictest of mortgage rules, even the BC government treasury is affected. The sharp decline in home sales caused by the B-20 stress test has cost the government $400 million in lost Property Transfer Tax revenues alone, money that could have been used for health care, education and affordable housing.

Get Cooking With These Ideas For Small-Space Kitchens

The kitchen has long had the distinction as being the epicentre of the home. It’s a gathering place for family and friends alike. When it comes to condo-size kitchens, the lack of storage can be a real problem. It doesn’t have to be! It’s actually an opportunity for condo owners to think outside the box in order to make the most of the space they do have.

There are many ways to create storage solutions for homes that lack storage space.

First off, you can create the illusion of space by keeping your colour palette light.

Lighter woods, such as maple, walnut or bamboo, also create the appearance of more space.

Keep your tones soft with not a lot of contrast.

Now that your kitchen appears more spacious what do you do about that lack of storage? With a little creative brainstorming and a good dose of DIY elbow grease, it’s amazing what can be achieved.

The list of clever ways to add extra storage

Many kitchens have that awkward dead space that typically collects dust. You know that space between the top of the kitchen cabinets and the ceiling? You will be surprised at how much more storage room that gap can generate. You can either add wicker or wire baskets up there to stash items you don’t use every day, or you can use that extra space to display your favourite cookbooks.

You can even make your own wooden wine rack and keep your wine bottles up there. Or head over to your local hardware store, buy some lumber cut to size and build a couple of shelves to stack dishes on. (All you need to do is paint them).

Maximize your cabinetry by taking it right up to the ceiling. By removing the dead space, the soffit, you can add extra cabinets. If you have older cabinetry, you can paint or stain them all the same colour for uniformity.

If you have nine-foot ceilings, you can extend your cabinetry by stacking two on top of each other. “You can add glass doors on some of them so that you can display your collection of nice glasses or dishes.”

You know that corner cabinet sometimes dubbed the Bermuda Triangle or blind corner – the one that you can’t even remember what you’ve stored in there because you have to get on your hands and knees to reach to the far back? Well, trending right now is smart storage, the brains, if you will, of corner cabinetry.  Kitchen cabinet manufacturers are finding great new ways to use this often seldom-used storage space by adding inside cabinet organizers. Think pull-outs, swing-out drawers or Lazy Susans.

Another bane of kitchens is underneath the sink. You can make it work harder and better by adding glide outs or pull outs which are ergonomically designed for ease. Your bottom shelf glide out can be a great place to put two or three organizers that can play host to your recycling, garbage, etc.Then, add adhesive removable hooks to the inside door to store light items such as dish cloths and sponges.

Your counter tops are prime real estate – use them wisely. If you clutter your counters it will only make your kitchen appear smaller. “We have installed an appliance garage in three condos recently. It looks similar to a mini roll-down desk. It is built into your cabinetry (but it touches the counter top) to stash away your small appliances, such as your toaster and coffee machine.”

Another counter top hog is the knife block. You can purchase a magnetic strip that mounts on your backslash to store your kitchen knives.

Talking about your backslash – hang racks for your favorite coffee mugs or anything else that is taking up precious room.

Can’t accommodate a kitchen island? Consider a rolling cart. You can buy really nice, small rolling carts (or tea carts), which have shelving below to store lots of small items.

Empty walls are also valuable real estate. Use some of your walls to hang pots, spice racks or to organize your display-worthy kitchen gadgets that you love.

If you have it in your budget, consider putting in a built-in kitchen banquette. Banquettes are a great solution for smaller kitchens because you can fit more diners into the space that might be too tight for four chairs and a table. Pocket-size banquettes also offer tons of storage in the seats. Lift up the seats and you have tons of room for those big serving platters that don’t fit anywhere else.